The scope and impact of school bullying is extremely worrying to say the least. School bullies can turn the lives of their victims upside down, and the problem is made worse by teachers who are unwilling or unable to deal with it. Unfortunately, bullying affects a large number of students in schools all over the country. The methods can be subtle or combative. Either way, bullying can have serious consequences.
Bullies push their targets around for a variety of reasons, and whether it’s direct or otherwise, the most damaging component of bullying is the physical and/or psychological abuse that occurs over a period of time. Methods of bullying include name-calling, threatening mobile phone messages and e-mails, racial slurs, willfully destroying somebody else’s property, and of course, physical violence like punching, kicking and slapping.
Why do children behave this way? The answers can be hard to pin down but more often than not it seems to stem from the lack of a loving, supportive family at home. The bully might come from a household in which everyone is always angry and where there is little empathy or respect. Physical punishment is a recurring theme in dysfunctional households and bullies will simply copy this behaviour because they think it’s normal. They often defend their actions by saying they were provoked and have little anxiety or fear. Aggression rules in many schools and boys turn to bullying more than girls. That’s not to say that girls are any less prone to bullying.
The short term consequences of bullying can be more than just hurt feelings and a few bruises. Children who are being made miserable at school over a long period of time because of a bully will experience depression and post traumatic stress disorder as an adult. Some might take their own lives. The act of being bullied can increase students isolation because their friends don’t want to be bullied themselves or lose their position in the social hierarchy.
Bullies will not have an easier time of it either. Sooner or later they will end up in trouble of some kind. In school they might think that bullying makes them tough but eventually they will have few friends if they have any at all. When they grow up bullies are more likely to commit criminal acts and have serious legal problems.
There are few programs in place in schools today to effectively deal with bullies. Who is to blame, exactly? No single individual can be held accountable for letting bullying tactics go unpunished. Schools are underfunded. They have little support from the government and are so overburdened with work that bullies can continue their campaigns of terror virtually unnoticed. All too often and in too many schools the following scenarios occur. First, it’s ignored, which makes it worse. Second, the bully is punished, which makes it worse. Third, the bullied child is punished, which makes it worse. Finally, the bully is kicked out of school, which passes the problem to somebody else.
These don’t address the root of the problem. The goal here should be to increase teacher and parent awareness through conferences and PTA meetings. Teachers can work with students to develop class rules against bullying. Students should be encouraged to help victims of bullying and make it clear this behaviour is not acceptable.
If your child is being bullied gather as much information as possible. Ask him/her what happened and if there were any adults around when it occurred. Don’t hesitate to call the principal if you feel it’s necessary. Do not contact the parents of the bullying child yourself. Let the school handle that. If your child has been hurt physically, call the school immediately. Talk to them and decide if the police should get involved. Whatever you do, do not under any circumstances encourage your child to fight the bully. Parents should be instrumental in stopping violence above all else.